Monthly Archives: April 2013

Katie the Famous Cake-Maker Lives In the Retirement Home

She is 94 years old, speaks with a delightful old-European accent, has a small apartment on the 7th floor and prays regularly for the health of the elevator. “I have been baking cakes since my mother first let me roll the dough when I was 8 years old in 1918,” she says. “I now have 86 years experience behind me and finally I’m getting it right. Yesterday’s cheesecake is just wonderful! Would you like a taste?”

Inside, her apartment was Spartan. A small TV stood on a coffee table in front of two armchairs. Against the wall was a small table with 2 chairs for eating.

“Where are the shelves with all your cake recipes?” I asked.

“I have no written recipes; they are all up here,” she said tapping her head. “I have a recipe for Linzertorte that’s been in my family for 400 years. It is the world’s oldest recipe for a cake. I have been carrying it around for 70 years. On Tuesday I baked a torte and I reduced the sugar by 10 grains. It was a great improvement. I must remember to tell my daughter. She is a great baker; not in my class but pretty good.”

She pushed a small slice of cheesecake over to me.

“Have you ever had a taste of heaven?”

“Wonderful! I cried. “Can I…?”

“No!”

“When can I come back?”

“August would be good. In August I will be baking the Linzertorte. Yes, I will see you again in August!” She opened and helped me out with a little push.

I have date with the 94 year cake maker in August!

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Hey Pop, Got Any New Apps?

Does the question stop you in your tracks or do you calmly look down you nose and reply, “Sure do! Downloaded another 6 yesterday!” Do your grandchildren and great- grandchildren look at you as though you’ve just dropped in from another planet that’s been drifting around in outer-space for the past millennium? Are you using a smart-phone and are you online 24 hours a day? Note: a smart-phone means a mobile telephone such as an iPhone, a Galaxy, a Blackberry or one of the many others with the tiny little buttons. Does your have an Android operating system? Back in the 50’s an Android was a robot designed to resemble a human. He grew up to be a phone…

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night, sweating from a recurring nightmare. I am running down a street that is just about 80 years long. On one side technology is passing me, jeering and howling as they go. On the other side are grandchildren, shrieking with laughter at the old man trying to keep up and falling further and further behind with each step.

It doesn’t help that you went to college or university in the 50s, or that you ran a successful business or practice in your profession for 40 years. You are now hopelessly out of date and unable to hold an intelligent conversation with your 8 year old grandson who can re-program your old steam-operated phone in seconds.

“My phone doesn’t seem to be working!”
“Pass it here, Pop, I’ll fix it.”
A split second later the phone is back in your hands and working perfectly. “You really should upgrade, Pop. You will even be able to text grandma!”

Who’s going to show her where the GPS is so she can look for the message?


Of Course We Celebrate Birthdays In The Retirement Home!

In fact, for every year we add to our personal score, the party gets wilder… Somewhere in our lifetime, we all stop looking forward to the next birthday, the next new year, the next holiday and the next major event and we start looking back at our achievements, one of which, is our age. “I’m 86, you know. I remember the day my father came home from work driving his first car, a 1934 Plymouth. Wow, it was exciting!” So when a birthday rolls around, it’s an occasion for celebration.

We leave out the part with the candles and all that blowing but we set out cakes and other sugar free delights and invite friends to come and join us. Today’s party was pitched at the 75 to 85 age-group and while there were no real birthday gifts a great time was had by all. As always there is an age limit so no grandchildren or great-grandchildren were invited and there wasn’t an iPhone or iPad in sight; we sat and talked to each other as we had done back in the old days.

Conversation is limited as follows: Children – 2 minutes each, grandchildren – 3 minutes each, great-grandchildren – 1 minute each and that favorite of all conversations – ailments – 2 minutes each. You can understand the reasons for these limitations. Much of the conversation consisted of “remember when” stories about travel, holidays, major milestones in our lives and in the world in general.

The food was prepared by 75 year old housewives, who have unlimited experience in the kitchen and these babes know their cooking. There is no such thing as an untried recipe in their books! Happy birthday every one!


How to Get Your Face Slapped In the Retirement Home

Here’s how it happened: Probably the most common sight among seniors in a retirement home are back problems, meaning walking problems. The worst is the shuffle where one foot remains in contact with the floor while the body slides forward. Then there is the bent spine, the straight knee, the limp, the twitch, the foot drag and the foot drop. I belong to the ‘sideways bent’ class. All these ailments lead to one common symptom – the pain grimace. One soon learns who has what and which twitch is which.

The other day I dropped into a couch with a huge sigh of relief at taking the weight off my feet – and thereby my back. Sitting on the couch is a lady who I know by her own particular pain brand – the walking butt clutch.
“Are you sore when you walk?” I ask the stupid question as an ice-breaker. It works.
“The pain is unbelievable,” she answers.

“And when you sit?” I say, continuing the questioning.
“Not too bad,” she says, “as long as I lean to the left and I don’t sink into the chair.”

“Hmm,” I say digesting this piece of information before I make my diagnosis.
“How about when you stand?”

“That’s the worst!” she exclaims, wincing at the very thought. “I cannot stand which means I am badly handicapped. No museums, no art galleries, no standing in lines at the bank or the bus stop and definitely no cooking!”

“Wow!” I offer in sympathy. “That’s pretty bad.”
“Any more questions?”

“What are you like in bed?”
There is a three second pause followed by a loud thwack which rattles my teeth.

“Well, it hasn’t spread to your arms,” I say, running for the door.


What Goes On In Retirement Homes, Anyway?

In recent years I have become a bad sleeper. From being a faithful 8-hours a nighter I have graduated to fits and bursts of sleep between midnight and 8am. I’m sure that given the opportunity I could knock out 8 hours on the couch if the television set was on and blaring in my ear, but things are different in the quiet of the night. So I wander around, read, grab a snack and the dark hours pass. I sometimes look out of the windows at the moonlit scenery and at the glass-fronted corridors where the only movement is an occasional caregiver changing shifts.

Except for three nights ago. I was standing at the window at about 3am mulling the thought of a sleeping pill when I saw the door of an apartment across the courtyard open and a figure slip out very quickly. As the person turned I saw it was a man. The door closed behind him and he took off down the corridor towards the elevators. So the night after, I staked the place out, I prepared a cheese sandwich for myself and a flask of hot milk. It was a long wait but it paid off. A few minutes after 3 the door opened, the guy emerged and someone inside closed the door behind him. In the morning I wandered along that corridor and read the name of the resident on the nameplate.

A bit of detective work at the front desk told me that the lady is a new arrival here. I found her in the coffee shop and checked her out. I sat down next to her and started up a mild conversation, but nothing developed and I left. She is nothing special to look at either, I thought. And extra heavy to boot. Last night I switched from a cheese sandwich to peanut butter and jelly after the indigestion of the previous night. At 3 the nocturnal visitor emerged and walked jauntily towards the elevator.

Yeah, beats me too…


Guilt Disappears At 80

The 88 year-old woman sitting next to me in the coffee lounge this morning leaned over and said, “I have to tell this to someone! I took an after-breakfast nap today and I don’t even feel guilty about it! What do you think of that?”
“I think it’s great,” I replied.
“What? That I took the nap or that I don’t feel guilty?”
“Umm, both I guess. I think that at, er, your age, please excuse me, it’s okay to nap wherever and whenever you feel like it. About not feeling guilty, that’s fine too. I still feel guilty about all sorts of things and I never give up hoping that one of these days I will grow out of it.”
“How old are you?”
“Just turned 80…”
“Well, now all signs of guilt have disappeared. Have you noticed?”
“I’m not sure, but I have noticed something’s changing,” I said going off in search of coffee – and feeling guilty about abandoning her.

It’s strange that life-long habits persist in a retirement home. The other day I was on the way to the elevator when the door of an apartment opened and a little old lady leaning on a walker came out holding a small package of garbage. I greeted her and continued walking. All week I was in a state of remorse and guilt at not having offered to take her garbage to the chute. I’m younger, stronger and male, I agonized. That’s what common courtesy dictates, isn’t it?

Yesterday the same thing happened. She emerged with the little package at the exact moment I passed her apartment. This time age-old, deep-ingrained good manners prevailed. “I’ll take that for you,” I said, reaching for the package.
“No you won’t!” She yelled, snatching the package close to herself. “It’s my garbage and I’m taking it!”
“Okay, okay,” I stuttered.

I’m never going to get this guilt thing right…


A Senior’s Glimpse into Hell

I had to have a form filled at my HMO office this morning. “No big deal,” I told my wife, “I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” I found parking and ambled up to the office. There was no one in front of me at the reception desk and I mentally corrected the 20 minutes to 15. I dropped into the chair, handed over the papers to the smiling secretary and explained what I wanted. She nodded and I was pleased that she understood my request. As she entered my number into her computer, the phone rang. She ignored it and went on with my work.

After another minute her mobile phone rang and she ignored that too. I was impressed. The door opened and a little old lady entered, voicing her request as she came into the room. Another phone began ringing and the old lady simply raised her voice so she would be heard. At this point the secretary lifted her mobile phone. “It maybe my daughter,” she said. She spoke for a moment and put the phone down. The two office phones were ringing out of sync and off-key and the little old lady was still trying to make herself heard.

The secretary asked me for my ID number and I started calling out the nine digits over the noise of the phones. She motioned me to keep going with the number. I gave her the last three numbers of my ID, the door opened, a man came in and the mobile phone rang again. She picked it up, held it to her ear and muttered something.

“Excuse me,” said the man who had entered. “I have a question.”

“That number you gave me is wrong,” she said to me. Two phones were ringing.
“I’ll come back later,” I said standing up.
“What’s your hurry?” she asked.
“You’re never going to get the number right with all this,” I said gesturing around the room.
I left. All the way along the passage and even in the parking floor I could hear the phones ringing.

And this is only 2013. Imagine how it’s going to be in 5 years time…


Welcome To the Retirement Center – Home Of Professional Nappers

Napologists, that’s us, the residents of the Sharon Gardens Retirement Home. We are specialists in the art of the sudden nap, the instant drop-off, the unplanned forty winks and the unannounced doze. We do it wherever and whenever, with no forewarning. One moment we are side by side with you, deep in a serious conversation and next moment, three seconds into your response to our last sentence, we are gone, eyes closed, breathing heavily and minus all those craggy lines on our faces as we sink into a peaceful snooze and take a break from the hullabaloo of 2012.

We feel no guilt at our sudden evaporation and we are not ashamed of our behavior. We just know what 40 or 140 vital seconds can do for you. Have you never been surprised at the strong come back we make on our return from Napland? It’s the snooze that refreshes, that keeps us Golden Agers on our toes and allows us to deal with all the young traffic swirling around us, with their noisy and interruptive electronic assistants.

There was a time when I was guilty about napping on the job or in the conversation or in the middle of a critical point of a TV program. All that’s behind me. In my golden years I have earned the right to drop off occasionally.

According to snooze professionals the nap should be no more than 30 minutes. Longer than that, your body will want to sleep till morning. Extended naps cause grogginess. Better to set your alarm clock and keep it short. You should also take your nap about the same time each day. Very funny – if I could control the times of my naps I would be able to control the world.


When’s Your Next Birthday?

I noticed a strange thing yesterday. I was out having lunch with two old friends. Actually they are “doubly old” – both are 89; and I have known them for a long, long time. One has already turned 89 and the other will turn 89 in a couple of months. At some stage in the non-stop conversation over the food the younger one said something like, “Well I’m 89 years old and I know what I’m talking about!” I looked at him in amazement: he still has a couple of months to go and here he is pushing himself over the 89 year bar? Why? I know that youngsters do this. One of our grandchildren at age 16 would answer the question about his age by saying, “I’ll be 18 in 22 months.”

I guess we all have a thing about our next birthday, no matter what the number is. There’s no counting backward in this game of life… Perhaps grandson’s system works well among the older generation as well. “How old are you, Pop?”

“In 22 months I’ll be 100!”

Sounds right, doesn’t it?

Here in the retirement home, birthdays are celebrated in public. On Friday evenings there is a music program. It is light, usually someone with a guitar or on the piano who sings popular songs (to which every resident sings along or at least hums to). At the last such concert of the month, the list of those residents who celebrated birthdays is read out, each is called up and receives a small gift from the management. In a flash you can see lips moving as the question ripples through the audience “How old?” So, in a matter of seconds, everyone knows how old everyone else is. There are few secrets among the old, it seems.


Harry, Are You Alright? Please Wake Up!

We had another one of those false alarms on Friday in the lounge at the retirement home. It was full of residents, all busy with their coffee and cake; conversation and arguments were raging up and down, a few great-grandchildren were running around and getting in everyone’s hair – normal Friday morning bedlam. I looked around to watch the action for a moment and there was Harry, fast asleep in an armchair. I envied him being able to drop off in the midst of all the noise. He even had a small smile on his face as though he was far away in some serene place, undisturbed and uninvolved.

I see Harry often. Our apartments are on the same floor so we often bump waiting for the elevator and we chat about important stuff, the weather and the food, the politics and the food. A big man, he seems quite fit although he uses a cane to get around. He’s one of those quiet men… never speaks unless spoken to. Always has a smile on his face.

I glanced at him again and saw that he had not moved. Of course, after that I kept turning to look at him. After all, how long can a man sit without moving? Finally the penny dropped. Harry had left for some other place. No noise, no hysterics. Like a magic show – one second here, next second gone.

I got up, crossed the floor and stood looking down at him. Mike joined me and we stood uncertainly for a moment, looking for a sign of life.

“He’s gone, huh?”

“How can you tell?”

“Dunno. I don’t have much experience with this stuff. I reckon he’s gone.”

“Should I go for help?”

“Yeah, may as well get another opin…”

At that moment Harry came to life. He blinked, fixed the smile on his face and said, “Hi guys! Have we had coffee yet?”